Drinking alcohol is common and accepted in our society, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be problematic. If you find yourself constantly or compulsively using alcohol as an escape from life, there’s a good chance your relationship with alcohol has become unhealthy and even toxic.
There are many different aspects of alcohol addiction. Even if you aren’t actively struggling with a substance abuse disorder, you may still have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Here are nine signs that indicate you may need to reassess your relationship with alcohol and other substances.
1. You drink often and heavily
Drinking too much is a clear sign that you have a problem. Excessive drinking can lead to serious health problems, including liver disease and heart failure.
If your idea of fun is drinking until you black out, it’s probably time to rethink your relationship with alcohol. Health experts recommend consuming no more than four drinks per day for men and three drinks per day for women.
Seek help from your doctor or a professional counselor to develop a plan to reduce your alcohol consumption. If you’re in denial about how much you drink, consider keeping track of how many drinks you consume daily.
2. People close to you are concerned about your drinking
One of the most telling signs of a problem with alcohol is if you’ve noticed family members or friends subtly (or not so subtly) trying to talk to you about your drinking. If people are starting to voice their concerns, take them seriously.
They may just look out for you and want to help keep you safe and healthy. Listen carefully and consider what your friends say without feeling defensive or attacked. Express gratitude for their concern and promise, and you promise to take care of things and follow through on them as soon as possible.
The more open-minded you can be when someone brings up a concern like this, the better the chance of finding a solution together.
3. You drink to counteract negative emotions
Do you use alcohol to relieve stress or make yourself feel better when feeling down? One of the most common causes of alcoholism is simply using alcohol as a coping mechanism for emotional trauma. If so, you might have a problem.
Using alcohol to numb your emotions can lead to significant issues in your life, and it can be difficult to stop once you start. Consider using alternative methods for dealing with negative feelings, such as exercise or meditation.
4. You’ve put yourself or others in danger
Driving under the influence, missing class or work, and putting yourself in dangerous situations with strangers are signs of a potentially unhealthy relationship with alcohol. While these behaviors may seem normal to you, you must seriously reevaluate them if they’re causing physical or emotional harm.
Take time to reflect on your drinking habits that could cause you trouble in your daily life and decide how serious of a problem it is before something goes wrong.
5. You need to drink more than before to feel anything
Developing a tolerance to alcohol is a huge sign that you have created an unhealthy relationship with it. Tolerance means that, over time, your body becomes accustomed to drinking and requires more alcohol to feel its effects.
Drinking more than you used to isn’t good for your health or happiness. If you need a drink before going out because otherwise, you won’t feel anything, it’s time to reevaluate your alcohol intake.
6. You avoid company when drinking
While it may be great to enjoy a cocktail or two at home alone, you may have a problem if you’re avoiding company at bars. Drinking heavily alone can lead to binging. Binge drinking increases your risk of developing severe health problems like liver damage.
If you want to cut back on your drinking, try making plans with friends who don’t drink as much as you do. You might even find that your friendships deepen without alcohol being a central focus of the conversation.
7. Alcohol takes precedence over your responsibilities
Is drinking becoming more important than your health? Do you make excuses for not showing up on time because of hangovers? It may be time to reassess how much alcohol plays a part in your life.
Excessively drinking can affect your finances and physical health. If alcohol plays a more prominent role in your life than your relationships, hobbies, or career, it’s time to take a step back and examine why. Be honest about how much control you have over your drinking habits before they ruin other aspects of your life.
8. You can’t go near alcohol without anxiety
If you’re constantly thinking about when you’ll drink next, or if having alcohol in your system makes you feel anxious, you may have a problem. Anxiety often drives people to drink in excess to calm their nerves.
Tension can lead to more drinking than planned and create a cycle of uncontrolled drinking that’s difficult to break out of. So be honest with yourself: If alcohol makes you nervous, it might not suit your health.
9. You experience cravings and withdrawal
Craving alcohol in situations that generally wouldn’t call for it is a warning sign of physical dependence. If you feel shaky, nauseous, or on edge without alcohol, you may be experiencing a milder form of withdrawal known as the shakes.
As your dependency on alcohol increases, so do both of these problems and anxiety and depression. The most severe form of withdrawal is delirium tremens (DTs), including hallucinations and seizures. They’re rare and typically only occur in people dependent on alcohol heavily over long periods.
However, withdrawal isn’t something to be taken lightly. It can cause potentially life-threatening complications like seizures and liver failure.
Before you go
When done responsibly and in moderation, alcohol can help us unwind and bring us closer to friends and family. But if you find yourself frequently giving in to temptations to drink, you likely have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. No matter your situation, recovery starts with one step: admitting you have a problem.